Sunday, January 15, 2012

How to Archer hits bookshelves days before season 3 premieres

     Hitting bookshelves this week is How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written. Incredibly long subtitle with missing punctuation aside, this book is basically how to be like Sterling Archer, of the FX television series Archer, written by Archer.

     Well, actually, written by Adam Reed, creator of the series, since Archer himself is a fictional character. But the cover of the book says 'By Sterling Archer.' 

     How to Archer commits to the fictional story of its creation fully. Beginning with a preface in which Archer relates how he came to write a book, and how he must soldier through the project after he spends the advance, all the while hounded by an editrix he took to bed, then jilted, How to Archer references these events throughout.

     From a storytelling perspective, it's a logical plot for Archer, and one in which he would conceivably write 30,000 words, though that is something Archer wouldn't want to do. It could easily be an episode, but of course, there's a lot more words here than can be spoken in 22 minutes.

     In keeping with this style, Archer's narrative voice complains over and over again about the hardships of this endeavor, as well as the publishing company's refusal to allow him a chapter on cobras, and forcing him to include sections he doesn't want to write about. And, of course, sticking with how Archer talks and behaves, many parts of the book are rushed, glossed over, and don't get into the level of detail that the publisher would want. Yet, they publish it anyway.

     How to Archer is one big, tongue-in-cheek joke. Obviously, since Archer is a television show, and fans of this series are the most likely customers, the book should be exactly the way it is, with a very strong character voice throughout. In this regard, How to Archer is perfect. It captures the spirit and tone of the show in book form, and one can easily imagine H. Jon Benjamin's voice speaking the words on the page.

     Speaking of, why isn't there any audio version read by the author available yet? Surely, one must be put into production immediately!

     How to Archer covers a large variety of topics that one would need to know about in order to be more like Archer. The largest section is the first, "How to Spy," which, of course, is the main thing that Archer does. Or is paid to do. Not that he really does all that much. Other sections include "How to Drink," "How to Style," "How to Dine," "How to Women," and "How to Pay For It." None of the advice given is actually practical or applicable. But it is humorous.

     Small sections of the book drag, such as when Archer gives many pages of actual cocktail recipes. Jokes are sprinkled throughout in order to try to keep the pace following, but since the author chooses to include real ingredient lists and steps, it does make one want to skim over that bit.

     But other than that, the book flows remarkably well. Each part is funny, and the short pieces keep the pace of reading moving. Plus, illustrations! Archer flits from topic to topic with a short attention span, and that actually benefits the small volume. If he dwelt too long on any one thing, it would drag the book down. Instead, other than the drink list, this doesn't happen. Plus, the attitude of the narration is amusing enough to get past that small flaw.

     In summary, How to Archer is a must-have for all Archer fans. It's a slim volume that will amuse for a couple of hours, but it's also a valuable little bit of extra to go with the series, and will sit nicely among any television collection. A sequel is not exactly clamored for, but for what this is, it works rather well.

    Buy How to Archer, on sale this Tuesday. And don't miss the season three premiere this Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

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Article first published as Book Review: How to Archer on Blogcritics.

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